‘Security Guard’ Clears Popular Class


An art history class recently added to the Core Curriculum is so popular it might catch fire.

A man students identified as a security guard or a police officer banished about 100 students packing the aisles of the Sackler Museum lecture hall Wednesday, citing a potential fire hazard.

The class, History of Art and Architecture 10: “The Western Tradition: Art Since the Renaissance,” was recently approved for Literature and Arts B Core credit, vaulting its already high popularity to potentially-catastrophic levels.

“If there was a fire, it would have been an absolute disaster,” said the course’s professor, Henri Zerner, who estimated that as many as 400 students were attempting to shop the class.

Rachel M. Berkey ’08 said that when she arrived at the class a man was standing outside forbidding people to enter. While Alison E. Occhialini ’10 and many others streamed into the room anyway, there were no syllabi left and she couldn’t hear Zerner’s lecture.

Twenty minutes into the class, an official asked all students not sitting in seats to leave the classroom.

While Zerner, who paused his lecture while students exited, said he believed that the exodus was orchestrated by the Cambridge fire marshal, the official who asked the students to leave was likely a security guard: HUPD spokesman Stephen G. Catalano said that while officers were called, the professor and security “worked out a solution” before anyone arrived at the Sackler. [SEE CORRECTION BELOW]

The class, which is offered every other year, has been popular since Zerner began teaching it eight years ago, fielding between 150 and 200 students each time it has been given.

Zerner said he hoped the class would not have to be lotteried because it would be inconvenient for students, but noted that the class could enroll only 290 students.

The Sackler lecture hall is no stranger to overcrowding. Berkey said that she had been asked to leave when shopping a class about Frank Lloyd Wright in the Sackler several semesters ago.

Members of the Core Curriculum office attend the first meeting of each Core class, in part to look for overcrowding, said Susan W. Lewis, director of the Core Program.

Lewis said that because Zerner’s course is a departmental one, it was not among the courses monitored by Core Office staff.

Occhialini, a History of Arts and Architecture concentrator, took an optimistic view of the crowds, inaudible lecture, and abrupt instructions to leave.

“History of Art isn’t usually all that popular, so it was great to see so much diversity and so many of my friends there,” she said.

—Staff writer Sarah J. Howland can be reached at


The Feb. 1 story "'Security Guard' Clears Popular Class" misspelled the name of HUPD spokesman Steven G. Catalano. His first name is spelled Steven, not Stephen.